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AwardsWatch Weekly Music Roundup: Week of January 20, 2014

Warpaint
Warpaint

What George Portades is listening to this week…

Joy Enriquez, “No One”

houseofjoyIt was wonderful to see Enriquez back in the limelight last year with her reality series “House of Joy” but it was even better for the fact that longtime fans were treated with some new music from her. “Tell Me How You Feel” is in my definitive list of favorite R&B jams, and I always felt that with her soaring voice and sweet personality, she should’ve been embraced more by the mainstream. With an EP of the same name as the show, we get a mixture that ranges from old school soul-infused jams (“Irreplaceable You” “Never Letting Go of You”) to gospel-tinged (“My Heart is Yours”) and head nodders (“I Need Your Love” “U Made My Day”). There’s even an exhilarating uptempo track (“Forever”) that closes out the EP perfectly. My favorite song, however, is the delicious midtempo “No One” which showcases Enriquez’s gift of creating an atmospheric world of harmonies. The song moves and shimmers throughout, always finding a way to continually sound smooth thanks to the lyrics, production and structure. I hope fans can get a full-length album this year, in addition to getting the experience of seeing this magnetic songbird live.

Sara Bareilles, “Cassiopeia”

vareilles_cassioComing off Bareilles’ surprise nomination for Album of the Year at this year’s upcoming Grammy ceremonies, I took some time to revisit her album The Blessed Unrest recently. While there are some very solid gems on it like the piano ballad “Manhattan,” the melodic “I Choose You,” or the sassy “Little Black Dress,” this track is inventively incredible. There’s usually one track on each of her albums (“Gravity” “Gotta Get Over You”) that becomes my favorite and this is the one that shines brightest off her latest. The track builds on layers and layers of sounds, from the acapella-created beats to the blending of her vocals, so that when the studio sounds jump in, the song is already on a whole other level. Bareilles is skilled at creating memorable songs with textured structures, and as you listen to her tell you a story in this song, it’s a slightly deafening shock at how it ends. Then again, it is a Pop song, one that lasts for an forgettable three and a half minutes.

Lily Allen, “Hard Out Here”
lillyallen_hotWhen it comes to heavily explicit lyrics in songs, I tend to enjoy the ones where it’s in a fun-hearted way (such as Ciara/Nicki Minaj’s “I’m Out”), and if that also involves a style similar to my favorite Marina and the Diamonds song (“Oh No!”), then hey, I’m all in! Allen hasn’t released an album in a bit, and it’s nice to see her coming back with some recent features (T-Pain, P!nk). It was about time she finally released some new songs of her own, and I’d say this was worth the time. Social commentary mixed in with some sass and playful lyrics, in addition to that hilarious music video and some sarcastic auto-tune, Allen is definitely exemplifying the word “fierce.” I’m very excited to see what else she comes up with for her next album, and in the meantime I’ll be rewatching that video for days to come.

What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week…

Night Beds, “Head for the Hills”

winstonyellon_nightbeds2Winston Yellen, hailing from Nashville (via Colorado) is the main man behind Night Beds who released his debut, Country Sleep last year. He has just revealed a new song ‘Head for the Hills’ this week to kick of his tour. This time the guitars are more prominent, the sound less acoustic and although you can still hear the alt-folk and dusty country music but this time there is more urgency and even a little foray into electric-land. There is wistful drum and guitar motif that repeats through the song. Gorgeous vocals which turn into a mellow, emotive hoarseness ( think Clarence Greenwood of Citizen Cope or Ray LaMontagne) and the poignancy and gentleness reminiscent of Mutual Benefit or Perfume Genius. Hopefully this is an indication of things to come in his sophomore effort. We definitely want more.

warpaintalbumWarpaint, Warpaint

Last year Savages were on top of the lists when it came to powerful, strong female bands, as they exploded on the scene with their punk debut Silence YourselfWarpaint, on the other hand is not new at all. They have been in the business for over a decade now and are releasing their second eponymous LP this month. A 4-member, all female outfit from Los Angeles (who have gone through some minor line-up changes over the year), their music is more alternative rock or psychedelia. They are a unique girl band in the sense that they defy conventions usually girls bands are expected to conform to. They are not purely a ‘riot grrrl’, punk band (e.g. Sleater-Kinney, Slits or afore-mentioned Savages), neither like pop acts (Haim or Tegan & Sara.) In fact the predominant sound and feeling they have is usually associated with male alt-indie bands. Their new record on one side creates swirling and sweeping soundscapes like Radiohead. But on the other hand there is a constant strain of cooing and cries, dreamy vocals reminiscent of Cocteau Twins and the understated raw rock sound recently heard in The xx. Pertinent to the genre their music is lush and layered with rough guitars and synths. The wails and the cries and the hisses never feel like an artifice or jarring but in fact remarkably pleas for mercy or genuine expression of despair or ecstasy. It is surprisingly calm and confident. A mysterious, moody album reminiscent of Cocteau Twins (’Keep it Healthy’) and which is never without emotional pull. They create spacey atmospheric ambience with the combination of their vocals and music (‘Biggy’ & ‘Go In’) built through layered music and vocals. ‘Disco//Very’ is where they are having some fun and in the serious ‘Son’, the marching band like chorus signals the inevitable. The best perhaps is the slow-burner ‘Hi’ with his seductive beats that turn into tinkling chimes-like bass breaks. An original record worth losing yourself into. Warpaint comes out on January 20, 2014.

Picks: “Hi,” “Son,” “Feeling Alright,” “Drive”